Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker was first staged in Saint Petersburg in 1892. Lovers of traditional ballet won’t do better than this performance showing at the Coliseum until January 7th. The dancing is immaculate, the sets beautiful and the costumes enchanting.

The ballet has been part of the English National Opera’s repertoire since its inception in 1950 and this production dates from 2010 with choreography by Wayne Eagling and sets by Peter Farmer. The charming bedroom scene where the siblings Clara and Freddie prepare for the party, moves smoothly into a wintry London. Skaters swoop over the Thames outside a grand London house before we move inside to the party itself. There Clara, still danced by a child, is given the nutcracker doll.

Clara’s subsequent nightmares of the Mouse King and his army are suitably unthreatening for a ballet so popular with young children (as well as all ages). As Alina Cojocaru takes over the role of Clara, the ballet shifts into a new gear and snow drifts across one exquisitely performed dance after another. Both James Forbat as Nutcracker and Fabian Reimair as Drosselmeyer are outstanding so that Cojacaru can fly into their arms, spin and leap and return again. They too bound and leap into space.

Perhaps the second act is even more spectacular as sheer ballet takes over from any pretence of a story. Russian, Chinese and sinuous Arabian dances rouse the audience to applause while the principals, added to by the Flowers, dance with that strength and delicacy that only the best dancers achieve. This truly is a company production where no-one falls below an exacting standard.

The orchestra under conductor Gavin Sutherland, opens gently with those familiar strains slowly gathering momentum, until the moment the music swings upwards to fill the packed Coliseum.

Finally, for those who enjoy information, here’s a fact or two from the Wardrobe Department.: 400 costumes were made for the production; there were 800 fittings for costumes; 400 Swarovski elements were sewn into the costumes; over 300 metres of fabric were used for the costumes. My companion was inspired to copy the chorus tutus of silver, strewn with rose for her bridesmaids in her upcoming wedding.
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